Metronomik's No Straight Roads has generated quite a dedicated following online. Let's address the elephant in the room: the soundtrack slaps. No Straight Roads is a rhythm-based boss rush game. That should be a given. The soundtrack by itself is worth a listen, and you can do so here. Beware of spoilers. It's safe to say that the music is the best part of No Straight Roads, as it should be. It also features some nice-looking character designs and there is a lot of charm and thought put into it. There are a few flaws with the controls, but, like its protagonists, there's a lot of heart. There's much, much more good than bad, and it covers some rather obscure music styles.
In short, it's something that might appeal to your inner rocker, your inner dancer, and your inner Devil May Cry fan, too.
No Straight Roads Releases Straight Up Bangers
The visuals in No Straight Roads are pleasant and flashy. Most boss battles rely more on audio than visual cues, but the animations remain important even on higher difficulties. Yinu's downright brutal boss, for instance, relies a lot on visual cues in the later stages. To dodge her mother's attacks, you have to watch the large red rectangles (piano keys) as they quickly dance across the battlefield before giant piano hammers come down on your heads in the same pattern. She also has a large shockwave and earth-throwing attacks that hit like several trucks. Mayday and Zuke, if left idle, will bounce in place to the beat just like the enemies (and an upgrade can slowly restore their energy for special moves while doing so). As for enemy designs, generic NSR robots are pretty standard fare, ranging from bouncing terminals that emit shockwaves to camera-like creatures that fire lasers.
The boss designs, however, are a different story, with fun details for players to pick out. SAYU's Pyun Pyun Trident features the USB symbol for the tines, and is used as a gag during her boss fight. Yinu's stage has a floral theme complemented by her hair resembling a rose bush. Her enraged mother's locks are also reminiscent of thorny branches. DJ Subatomic Supernova's concert uses space imagery and planets, and his final attack resembles a black hole (to match his massive ego). 1010's eerie, synchronized movements, taking of "wefies," and robotic bodies all bring to mind the meticulously-planned choreography and coordinated personal lives of idol groups and boy bands.
Though the music is fantastic, No Straight Roads' voice acting can be a bit jarring to those not used to Malaysian English. In the English dub, there is a lot of Manglish (a Malay/English creole) slang sprinkled in, true to Metronomik's studio being based in Malaysia. DK West especially loves to vacillate between English and Malay from sentence to sentence. Players can still use context clues and subtitles to follow the conversation. There are a few cases of characters using odd diction (most notably Yinu and Mayday), but the transition between languages is usually pretty smooth. Zuke, Kliff, and Tatiana give strong performances as well. Voice lines sometimes get cut off, the next character spouting their line in response to nothing.
The rest of the sound design works out, with Mayday's guitar swings and Zuke's drumbeats having some weight to them. Music genres featured include, of course, rock and EDM, but also subgenres like dubstep, pop, and classical. A subplot between Zuke and his brother DK West even features rap battles styled with dikir barat, a traditional Malay music style.
No Straight Roads? Not Really
Moving on to basic plot, No Straight Roads features a gorgeous music aesthetic. The colors are vibrant and the character designs are fun and iconic. Play as Mayday and Zuke, the guitarist and drummer, respectively, of indie rock duo Bunk Bed Junction. Start with their audition for No Straight Roads, an EDM record label that has brought prosperity and energy to the denizens of Vinyl City. Music is used to power just about everything in the city, from lights to soda machines. The tutorial level will help players get used to the controls and the beat-based gameplay. Regardless of their performance, however, the two are snubbed by NSR's Tatiana and the label's top artists. Thanks in part to Mayday's outburst, Tatiana bans rock acts from auditioning shortly thereafter. Then the power goes out, except for the city's elite EDM artists, of course. Outraged by the fact they nearly powered a large generator by themselves with their rocking out, Bunk Bed Junction decides to take revenge on the label and bring rock back to Vinyl City. Bunk Bed Junction groupie Kliff provides intel on NSR's biggest acts, and Mayday and Zuke begin crashing their concerts.
The plot for No Straight Roads isn't as convoluted as the title would suggest. Even the twists are pretty easy to predict, though I don't think this was a bad thing. No Straight Roads didn't set out to make a grandiose, epic story. It wanted to tell something fun using the power of music, and that was good enough for me. There are, however, numerous objects scattered around that Mayday and Zuke can observe that build the world. They both have their own thoughts and comments on things like speakers, microphones, and even the artist merch that NSR sells to the public. It definitely adds some liveliness to Vinyl City, as well as establishes the differences between hot-blooded, energetic Mayday and cool, collected Zuke.
Interviews, when unlocked, give more fans and more insight into the protagonists, and I thought it was a good way to learn more about characters in-universe. These insights extend into gameplay, with Mayday having slow, strong attacks, and Zuke relying on finesse and technical combos. There are some moments of real poignancy, as well, but No Straight Roads by and large ends on an upbeat note. The Yinu, Eve, and Tatiana fights stand out as particularly emotionally-charged.
No Straight Roads to Victory
No Straight Roads has decent controls, but they definitely favor a controller over a keyboard setup. There's a definite floatiness to their jumping that made the platforming Approach sections a slog. Each time you attempt to hijack an act, you must get through their security with an Approach. This security is comprised of waves of generic enemies in bite-sized chunks. Occasionally, there are other obstacles to avoid such as bottomless pits. This floatiness was especially prevalent on 1010's Approach, which featured extensive platforming in time to the beats. Thankfully, these Approaches don't matter much and can be skipped with subsequent fights, where the floatiness doesn't usually matter. It feels there's some sluggishness in controls sometimes as well, though other times the characters are quite responsive. There is a slight delay when swapping characters, to prevent abuse. The special moves are rather circumstantial, and I found myself using healing skills more often than anything else. Since each enemy attacks in time to a beat, you can feel out when enemies will make their move.
Mayday and Zuke control quite differently, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Both have basic attacks, with a slow, powerful three-hit combo for Mayday, and a fast and light combo for Zuke that can become longer and longer. Both also possess the ability to fire notes from their instruments, which are used to attack bosses from a distance or snipe enemies out of reach. With the right upgrades, you can gain notes by successfully parrying or transforming objects to help you. Boss fights have several phases, each featuring more difficult attacks than the last. The general formula requires players to damage the boss with melee or missile attacks, avoid losing too much health in return, and then deplete their health bar. They then move on to the next part of the fight until Mayday and Zuke can perform a "Showstopper," a powerful blast of pure rock energy. When they defeat an artist, they gain their district's charter. Rinse and repeat as the duo climbs the ranks, and you have the basic gameplay. It's a rather short game without all of the difficulty levels, featuring six main bosses and the DK West subplot.
A grading system gives Mayday and Zuke more fans (to purchase upgrades) if they perform better, and it's quite satisfying to see a totally red metric bar signifying you nailed what was being graded. The parry system, which requires precise timing, adds a fun deal of complexity and is included in your final grade. Any attack with a bright purple laser effect can be parried, but less confident players can simply roll out of the way. Most of the depth comes from higher difficulties and making use of the parry system. The Parry and Perfect Parry difficulties unlockable after the main game emphasize this. Basically, No Straight Roads plays like a much more musical Devil May Cry, featuring hack-and-slash gameplay juxtaposed with feeling the beat.
Difficulty in No Straight Roads ramps up rather quickly. While DJ Subatomic Supernova is a pretty simple boss, the following top NSR performers will summarily wreck a player who lacks a good sense of rhythm and refuses to learn. This becomes more apparent on higher difficulties, with more to manage at once. Mastering the parry system and the various Mods becomes essential. Some boss fights, such as SAYU's, actually become easier on higher difficulties with so many extra chances to parry. The same cannot be said of the two optional DK West fights, which had good tracks but are teeth-grindingly frustrating to do as a single player. Most of No Straight Roads' meat is in the various boss difficulties, so it's to the player's benefit to up the challenge by talking to Joey outside of each concert hall.
To summarize, No Straight Roads is definitely worth looking at. Low-difficulty gameplay is rather simplistic, but more difficult versions of bosses become quite hectic (and fun). The soundtrack is excellent. It's catchy and holds up on its own with numerous official remixes. Fans of musicals will enjoy the integration of the plot and mechanics.
1, 2, 3, 4, What's NSR's final score? 5, 6, 7, 8, that's the number I will rate!
TechRaptor reviewed No Straight Roads on PC for the Epic Games Store with a copy provided by the publisher. The title is also available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- Gorgeous Eye-Catching Visuals and Designs
- Smoothly Integrated Gameplay/Story/Soundtrack
- Lively World
- Great Music
- Some Graphical/Clipping Issues
- Inconsistent English Voice Acting
- Each Artist's Difficulties Unlocked Individually
- Weak Platforming